Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 30, 2023

Mariner Books: Everyone This Christmas Has a Secret: A Festive Mystery by Benjamin Stevenson

Grove Press: Brightly Shining by Ingvild Rishøi, Translated Caroline Waight

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Broadleaf Books: Trespass: Portraits of Unhoused Life, Love, and Understanding by Kim Watson

Nancy Paulsen Books: Sync by Ellen Hopkins

Running Press Adult: Cat People by Hannah Hillam

Beaming Books: Must-Have Autumn Reads for Your Shelf!

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Quotation of the Day

'A Strong Curatorial Eye & Political View Is What Makes Our Store Thrive'

"We believe that having a strong curatorial eye and political view is what makes our store thrive and keeps it a sustainable business long-term. We've found that the stronger we stand in our mission, the more our community rises up to support us. Sometimes it feels risky to be overtly political or feminist as times change, but we've always felt strongly that it's what makes us survive....

"The conversations we have are about more than books, even though the books serve as a jumping-off point. I think it says a lot about the character of our store, that people want to have conversations about abortion access, prison abolition and racial justice here."

--Sarah Hollenbeck, co-owner of Women & Children First, Chicago, Ill., in a Block Chicago piece headlined: "Book Bans Be Damned: Chicago's Queer-Owned Bookstores Won't Stop Fighting for LGBTQ+ Community"

Peachtree Teen: Compound Fracture by Andrew Joseph White


Bookstore Maps Launch in Montana and Philadelphia, Pa.

Independent bookstores in Montana have teamed up to create the first-ever Montana Bookstore Trail. Spearheaded by Rachel Elliott-Burg, owner of Reading Leaves in Townsend, and designed with Elk River Books in Livingston, the map features 21 independent bookstores across the Big Sky state.

Customers can get their passports initialed or stamped at each participating store, and once the trail is complete they can scan the QR code on the back of the passport to access a short quiz. Completing the quiz will enter the customer into a drawing for a Bookstore Trail tote bag full of books and other prizes.

Chelsia Rice, owner of Montana Book Company in Helena, noted that while not every Montana indie opted-in, "there is an awesome selection this year and surely more to come next year."

And in Philadelphia, Pa., a group of indie booksellers led by Molly Russakoff, owner of Molly's Books and Records, has released the Philadelphia Bookstore Map featuring 46 bookstores across the city. Local artist Henry Crane created the illustrations, which depict the storefronts of all 46 included stores.

Russakoff, who has wanted to create a Philly bookstore map since 2008, told Billy Penn that she aimed "to make it a piece of public art, rather than just a brochure that people will throw away. We want people to keep these."

The bookstore map was funded with the help of a GoFundMe campaign launched last summer that raised $10,000. Gina Dawson of Partners and Son and Curtis Kise of Neighborhood Books were part of the team that helped make Russakoff's idea a reality.

25,000 copies have already been printed, with 25,000 more on the way. They can be found at independent bookstores around the city as well as Free Library branches and are available at no cost. 

Inner Traditions: Expand your collection with these must-have resource books!

Strive Opens Second Store in Minneapolis, Minn.

Strive, an independent publisher with an emphasis on Black authors and stories, has opened a second Strive Bookstore in Minneapolis, Minn., Mpls.St.Paul magazine reported.

Located in the Young Quinlan Building in downtown Minneapolis, Strive Bookstore sells diverse books for children, teens and adults. There are titles published by Strive itself as well as books by local authors and other independent publishers, including Elva Resa and Green Card Voices.

Strive owner and founder Mary Taris told Mpls.St.Paul that she wants this new location to become a "community space, a go-to place where people can feel comfortable and free to come in as they are and be their authentic selves. To connect with others across cultures and across different races."

Taris's event plans include author signings, writing workshops, and book clubs, and she is working on turning part of the store into a collaborative workspace. Currently there is also a section of the store dedicated to an exhibit on the history of Black heritage and the Kentucky Derby.

Taris founded Strive Community Publishing in 2018 with a focus on publishing diverse children's books, but after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, she received so many inquiries from people wanting to tell their stories that she began publishing adult books. 

She opened the original Strive Bookstore in October 2021 inside of the Sistah Co-Op in Minneapolis.

B&N to Open Four New Dallas-Fort Worth Stores

Barnes & Noble plans to open four new stores in Dallas-Fort Worth, Tex., in addition to the 11 stores it already operates there, the Dallas Morning News reported. Janine Flanigan, senior director of stores and planning, said the chain will launch 30 to 40 new stores nationwide this year, adding: "And last year, 16 stores in one year was huge for us."

The first new B&N will open by late October in 13,000 square feet at 1361 W. Campbell Road in Richardson's Pavilion East Shopping Center. The site, across the street from the University of Texas at Dallas, is undergoing a major renovation and will be the first location in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with B&N's new store layout, which can range from 5,000 to 30,000 square feet.

"In the past, our displays were corporate and publisher-driven," Flanigan said. "We're trying different sizes in different markets. Before we had one size store and that limited where we could be."

The Richardson store is technically a replacement store for the location that closed in 2021 at Preston Royal Village shopping center in Dallas, but the next three will be new stores. Flanigan said she cannot reveal those locations yet.

Next 'Owning a Bookstore' Workshop Set for August 27-29

Donna Paz Kaufman and Mark Kaufman

For anyone who dreams of owning a bookstore and wants to open this year, the next hands-on workshop "Owning a Bookstore: A Day in the Life" will take place in person Sunday, August 27, through Tuesday, August 29.

The program, co-sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, will be held at Story & Song Bookstore Bistro on Amelia Island, Fla., a working community bookstore owned and operated by Mark and Donna Paz Kaufman, founders of the Bookstore Training Group of Paz & Associates.

Training topics include store design, fixturing and merchandising; resources for curating opening inventories, buying and inventory management; marketing, staffing, and more. Tuition includes on-site training, meals, and access to the online training modules for one year.

The Bookstore Training Group has worked with more than a thousand existing and prospective booksellers world-wide to learn the business skills required in book retailing and apply best practices. For details, visit or call 904-277-2664.

Obituary Note: Carol Smith

Carol Smith

Carol Smith, who had a long literary career in writing, publishing, and being an agent, died June 5. She was 84. The Bookseller reported that "after growing up in London, she went to New York in the early 1960s and found her first publishing job with academic book publisher Arthur Rosenthal who moved her around his company giving her experience of every department. When she left, he suggested working as a literary agent so she started up her career in agenting back in London." 

Smith worked at A.P. Watt before starting her own agency. Her family noted that "having successfully represented authors for years she took the plunge and became a bestselling author herself." Her books include Kensington Court, Double Exposure, Family Reunion, Hidden Agenda, Vanishing Point, Without Warning, Fatal Attraction, and Twilight Hour.

Wayne Brookes, associate publisher at Pan Macmillan, observed that as an agent, Smith "represented the best talent and as an author she entertained thousands with a tantalizing mix of the gothic and crime. She also had no time for literary snobbery. I personally owe my career to Carol Smith, and the world is a much darker place without her." 

Stephen Rubin, consulting publisher for Simon & Schuster U.S. and former chairman of Transworld, added: "Carol was a true original. She was a flamboyantly independent agent, serving her myriad clients out of her beautiful, rambling flat in Kensington. When she tired of agenting, she became a successful novelist. No one was better at reinvention."

Noting that Smith "loved the business, and its people," Susan Fletcher, former deputy managing director of Hodder & Stoughton, said, "The adjective that particularly comes to my mind is 'enthusiastic' and she displayed that quality whenever I saw her, whether it be for a book she had just read, a TV show she was watching or a new friend she had made. It is a duller world without her." 

Shelf Awareness Delivers Indie Pre-Order E-Blast

This past Wednesday, Shelf Awareness sent our monthly pre-order e-blast to nearly 955,000 of the country's best book readers. The e-blast went to 954,999 customers of 234 participating independent bookstores.

The mailing features 11 upcoming titles selected by Shelf Awareness editors and a sponsored title. Customers can buy these books via "pre-order" buttons that lead directly to the purchase page for the title on each sending store's website. A key feature is that bookstore partners can easily change title selections to best reflect the tastes of their customers and can customize the mailing with links, images and promotional copy of their own.

The pre-order e-blasts are sent the last Wednesday of each month; the next will go out on Wednesday, July 27. Stores interested in learning more can visit our program registration page or contact our partner program team via e-mail.

For a sample of the June pre-order e-blast, see this one from Turning the Page Books, Monroe, Conn.

The titles highlighted in the pre-order e-blast were:

The Breakaway by Jennifer Weiner (Atria)
Prophet by Helen MacDonald and Sin Blaché (Grove)
Out of Nowhere by Sandra Brown (Grand Central)
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (Harper)
Anansi's Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World by Yepoka Yeebo (Bloomsbury)
Still We Rise: A Love Letter to the Southern Biscuit with Over 70 Sweet and Savory Recipes by Erika Council (Clarkson Potter)
Sun House by David James Duncan (Little, Brown)
Family Lore by Elizabeth Avecedo (Ecco)
The Enemy at Home by Kevin O'Brien (Kensington)
The Brothers Hawthorne by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Little, Brown)
Stuntboy, In-Between Time by Jason Reynolds, illus. by Raúl the Third (Atheneum/Dlouhy)


Image of the Day: Katie Siegal at WORD Bookstore

Katie Siegel (r.) celebrated the release of her debut novel, Charlotte Illes Is Not a Detective (Kensington)--loosely based on her popular TikTok series "Charlotte Illes, Detective"--at WORD Bookstore in Jersey City, N.J., with her editor, Shannon Plackis.

Boswell's Daniel Goldin Named Milwaukee Rotary Club Person of the Year

Daniel Goldin

Congratulations to Daniel Goldin, founder and owner of Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wis., who has been named Person of the Year by the Milwaukee Rotary Club.

In its citation, the Rotary said in part, "Daniel Goldin is obsessed with books and is on a single-minded mission to connect books to Milwaukeeans. While Bud Selig gets credit for saving the Brewers and Herb Kohl the Bucks, Daniel Goldin can be credited with saving the independent bookstore experience for Milwaukee. In creating Boswell Book Company, he has persevered against low margins, the dominance of Amazon, and the shuttering of COVID, through persistence, business savvy, and incredible hard work...

"Boswell's evening author events, scheduled three to four times every week, are an important part of Milwaukee's social life and a key gathering place for building community. Daniel himself is the rare intellectual who is also an extrovert, sharing his passion for local authors, urbanism, department stores and Band-Aids with anyone who walks into his store.

"Daniel is a strong supporter of local libraries and public radio. His long-lived partnership with the Milwaukee Public Library (MPL) has enabled them to develop and grow a strong fan base for literary programming by delivering quality author events to diverse communities across the city. The library's budget is modest and with Daniel's support and enthusiasm for serving the community, MPL is able to host many acclaimed authors to curious and adoring audiences for free."

For a video of testimonies by authors, customers, staff, and more, click here. For a video of the award presentation and Daniel's wonderful acceptance speech, click here.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Rachel L. Swarns on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Rachel L. Swarns, author of The 272: The Families Who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church (Random House, $28, 9780399590863).

Good Morning America: Elizabeth Castellano, author of Save What's Left: A Novel (Anchor, $26, 9780593469170).

Also on GMA: Crystelle Pereira, author of Flavor Kitchen: Vibrant Recipes with Creative Twists (Kyle Books, $29.99, 9781914239793).

Movies: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo; Dune, Part Two

Leslye Headland (Russian Doll) will direct Netflix's highly-anticipated adaptation of the novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Deadline reported. Liz Tigelaar, creator and showrunner for Tiny Beautiful Things, wrote the script. Liza Chasin is producing for 3Dot Productions while Brad Mendelsohn will produce for Circle of Confusion. Jenkins Reid and Margaret Chernin will exec produce.


A new trailer has been released for Netflix's Dune: Part Two, based on the classic sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert. IndieWire reported that unlike Dune: Part One, the sequel "will solely have a theatrical release well ahead of PVOD and streaming. Part One had a day-and-date debut on Warner Bros. Pictures' streamer HBO Max during its release amid the Covid-19 pandemic." 

The cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Charlotte Rampling, and Javier Bardem. New cast members include Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, Souheila Yacoub, and Tim Blake Nelson. Dune: Part Two premieres in theaters November 3. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Society of Authors Winners

The Society of Authors distributed £100,000 (about $126,220) to 30 writers during the 2023 SoA Awards ceremony, presented in London by the organization's chair, Joanne Harris, with a keynote from Val McDermid.  

Among the honorees, Daniel Wiles took the £10,000 (about $12,620) Betty Trask Prize for a first novel by a writer under 35 for Mercia’s Take; the £5,000 (about $6,310) Queen's Knickers Award, honoring an outstanding children's original illustrated book for ages 0-7, went to Olaf Falafel for Blobfish; and the £1,250 (about $1,575) ADCI (Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses) Literary Prize went to Nicola Griffith for Spear.

McDermid commented: "Awarded by authors, for authors, the SoA Awards hold a special place in the literary calendar. It is vital that we celebrate the work authors do to help us find meaning in tumultuous times, now more than ever. This year’s winners make that task easy. They have given us a plethora of riches: from sweeping novels, to searching poetry, to first works by exciting authors at the start of new careers. I hope each win fuels that joy of words that first gave birth to these many and various works."

Reading with... Alessandro Columbu

photo: Francesca Columbu

Alessandro Columbu was born in Ollolai, Sardinia, where he grew up in a bilingual Sardinian/Italian environment raised by two language teachers who instilled in him a passion for languages and cultures of the world. Since the early 2000s, he has cultivated his interest in languages by learning many, including Arabic, Spanish, Catalan, English, Portuguese, and Farsi. In 2016, he published a translation of Zakaria Tamer's Taksir Rukab from the Arabic as Segamentu de Ancas, in Sardinian, the first book to have ever been translated from Arabic into Sardinian. He's also an accomplished bass player. Most recently, Columbu translated Sour Grapes (Syracuse University Press), a collection of 59 satirical stories by Zakaria Tamer.

Handsell readers your book in roughly 25 words:

Zakaria Tamer's witty humor, sassy female protagonists and surreal endings will make you wish you had discovered his short stories before. Better late than never though, don't miss it!

On your nightstand now:

I'm about to finish Richard Wright's The Man Who Lived Underground. At the same time a terrific read and a slap across the face, particularly in its first two chapters. I'm looking forward to finding out what happens to the protagonist in the end, but I'd recommend it to anyone right now.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Your top five authors:

Salvatore Satta, probably the most accomplished Sardinian novelist of the 20th century and a successful jurist by training. Satta's novels are a must read if you're from inner Sardinia.

Bachisio Bandinu, a Sardinian anthropologist who completely changed my perception of Sardinian identity and struggle for self-determination.

Roddy Doyle needs no introductions. The Commitments is one of my favourite novels of all time, and I love the way he presents Irish characters without stereotypes.

Ghada al-Samman is the best Syrian novelist of the 21st century in my opinion. Her novels have shown Arab writers a genuine female point of view through a masterful use of language.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Well what can one say? I've read everything he wrote about Sherlock Holmes, both in Italian as a kid then in English as an adult.

Book you've faked reading:

To Kill a Mockingbird. I read approximately half of the book, then I went to see the play in London. I can tell you the story but not because I've read the whole thing. Does that count?

I've also faked reading Madame Bovary and would occasionally refer to someone as a 21st-century Emma just to sound cool. I'll go to hell for this. I love Sentimental Education though, which I did read and thoroughly enjoyed.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Salvatore Satta's The Day of Judgment. I'm not particularly fond of jurists, but Satta remains to this day the only novelist to have managed to convincingly penetrate the Sardinian psyche. He captured and unpacked elements of class and gender identity that I've always found incredibly inspiring.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Life of Pi by Yann Martel, but it's a terrific story. I remember struggling with the first 70-75 pages, after which I couldn't put it down.

Book you hid from your parents:

I never hid books from my parents, but I guess at one point they did worry about me reading an illustrated version of the four gospels. They must have thought I wanted to become a priest or something.

Book that changed your life:

Pirandello's The Late Mattia Pascal. No matter where you go, you always take yourself with you.

Favorite line from a book:

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon his father took him to discover ice." --Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

So simple and yet so evocative!

Five books you'll never part with:

I don't like the idea of book fetish, and I like to give books away to people that I know will read them. I guess five of my favourite books are Satta's The Day of Judgment, García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Camus's The Outsider, Martel's Life of Pi, Doyle's The Commitments.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

This would probably be Kerouac's On the Road. Just to make sure it's the book itself I found boring and that I didn't read it at the wrong time in my life.

Book Review

Review: Sure, I'll Join Your Cult: A Memoir of Mental Illness and the Quest to Belong Anywhere

Sure, I'll Join Your Cult: A Memoir of Mental Illness and the Quest to Belong Anywhere by Maria Bamford (Gallery Books, $28.99 hardcover, 288p., 9781982168568, September 5, 2023)

Just to be clear: comedian Maria Bamford never joined a cult cult. But her decades-long reliance on organizations with "Anonymous" at the ends of their names, and her attraction to "Unitarianism, Marie Kondo, and anything that will get me going in a fresh way," do suggest a susceptibility to the allure of new belief systems. Bamford explains all in her bracingly honest, brazenly funny first book, Sure, I'll Join Your Cult: A Memoir of Mental Illness and the Quest to Belong Anywhere.

Bamford, who grew up comfortably middle class in Duluth, Minn., loves her family ("I LOVE MY FAMILY"), but she's open to the possibility that her parents contributed to her shaky mental health. As a child, Bamford exhibited OCD behaviors, and her weight issues eventually led her to Overeaters Anonymous--"my first twelve-step group--or, as I like to think of it, my first live-action role-playing game." It occurs to Bamford that her problems may have had something to do with not getting enough attention at home: "It was the '70s! Lord of the Flies parenting! The kids will work it out on their own!"

Bamford may not have honed her comedy chops during the decade that she was tethered to her Suzuki violin, but thanks to her mom-mandated lessons, she recognized her first recital for what it was: "the gateway drug to a lifetime of performance-induced oxytocin." Bamford's taste for performing, which included a "violin/character-based show that may or may not have been comedy," brought her to Los Angeles, where her star's gradual rise corresponded with heightened anxiety, heavy debt, increased dependence on support networks, and finally a trio of psychiatric hospitalizations.

Sure, I'll Join Your Cult is a survivor's tale with at least some of the uplift contractually obligated by the genre. But the book's greatest utility may be Bamford's insider's report on how someone with "the mentals" can get by at work, especially in a field whose demands clash with a need to prioritize sleep and other means of sanity preservation. (One could find Bamford chilling out in her special on-set tent during her downtime while making her Netflix series, Lady Dynamite.) Sure, I'll Join Your Cult is a wry, blunt, service-y, sometimes cranky, and largely exuberant stroll through the modern self-help and support-group scene. If she hadn't written this book, Bamford would have run out and bought it, and she would have loved it. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: Comedian Maria Bamford offers a wry, blunt, service-y, sometimes cranky, and largely exuberant stroll through the modern self-help and support-group scene.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: RIP (Read in Peace), Henry Petroski

Henry Petroski

Henry Petroski died earlier this month. The American Society of Civil engineers described him as "a brilliant civil engineer, wordsmith, and educator with a great appreciation for history who achieved fame for his many engaging, enjoyable books on engineering and facets of it." All true.

Many of his books found a general readership, including To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design; The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance; The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts-From Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers-Came to Be as They Are; and The Toothpick: Technology and Culture.

Most authors outlive their books (aka OP), but the lucky writers have titles that outlive them. When that happens, a phenomenon known as retail mourning occurs and a sales floor wake is traditionally held. Bookstore buyers react to a well-known author's death by immediately ordering multiple backlist copies and floor booksellers create display memorials, including appropriate signage, with whatever stock they have on hand. 

Henry Petroski's passing did not seem to spark a wave of retail mourning displays in bookstores, at least as far as my generally reliable--if scientifically flawed--social media research could find. I wasn't shocked, but felt a little sad about that. 

From my bookselling days, I remember two of his works in particular: The Book on the Bookshelf and The Pencil, the latter of which lingers in my reader's memory for two reasons. The first is Petroski's deep appreciation for Henry David Thoreau's engineering skills, particularly as an innovative pencil maker in his family's business, Thoreau & Co. Pencils ("...there is little doubt that before Henry David Thoreau was the literary celebrity he has come to be, the pencils he and his father made came to be without peer in this country").

The second concerns the unusual dimensions of the book itself, which was a bookseller's shelving challenge. "My book on the pencil was published in a format suggestive of its subject, a format that was taller and narrower than the usual octavo," Petroski writes in The Book on the Bookshelf. "This worked fine to distinguish the book and draw attention to it when it first appeared in hardback, but the unusual size proved to be a problem when the book was to come out in paperback, a format in which there is much more uniformity of size to conform to display racks. In the end, the intended paperback publisher did not want to handle the book, because it would have had to be typeset all over again to bring its pages into conformity with those of a standard-size book, and so the publisher of the hardback brought out the paperback in the original, unusual format."

(High Barn Books, U.K.)

Although it has received much less attention than Petroski's other works, The Book on the Bookshelf is, naturally, my favorite, especially the chapter on books and bookshops, which includes highlights like these:

"During the sixteenth century, stationer-booksellers typically maintained workshops in which binding was carried out," Petroski writes. "In the next century these merchants continued to act as middlemen, but the actual binding came to be done by master binders. Those books that were bound directly by the stationer or by the binders he employed became known as trade bindings, and were more or less common, as are the bindings in which most books are issued today. There were alternatives, of course, and 'rich, private collectors continued to have their books bound in a more sumptuous manner, using as a rule damask and velvet rather than leather.' Such was far from the standard stock in bookshops, however."

While Samuel Pepys wandered the streets of London during the 17th century, booksellers "were often also publishers who carried their own titles, and even when they were not, each of them tended to have a unique stock," Petroski observes. "Thus Pepys frequented a number of shops around London, and he took what purchases he made to a separate binder for making into what we would consider a finished book.... The booksellers of the later seventeenth century were not likely to carry bound books at all, for it was then the custom to buy one's books in loose quires, or gatherings of printed sheets." 

Nineteenth-century booksellers were caught up in the "general fascination of... inventors to mechanize and power just about everything that moved." A style of binding uniform for all copies of the same book appeared around 1830, when machinery was introduced to letter the clothbound cases that could be fitted over printed pages. 

"This development ushered in a new chapter in the way books were made and sold," he writes. "Whereas the bookseller would bind or have bound, by hand of course, only as many copies as were likely to be sold in the immediate future--a form of just-in-time manufacturing--with the advent of machinery the publisher itself began to bind an entire edition of a book in the common style of the time. Bookshops no longer needed to stock loose sheets, and so their shelving requirements changed to resemble more those of a library, where books had for some time been shelved vertically, with their lettered spines out."

Read in Peace, Henry Petroski, "explicator and champion of the pencil."

--Robert Gray: contributing editor

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